School performances. Cue my anxiety for you, little guy. Weeks of practicing singing and hand motions and some cute dancing all coming to a head with a stage and an audience and loud unexpected noises that send you into panic mode. Tears, crying, refusing to participate, extreme panic and fear and struggle written all over your sweet little face.
That was our old life. School functions meant meltdowns and frantic behaviors and leaving early because we were both emotionally drained and completely over any “fun” there was to be had. Until the day I asked you “Buddy, you practiced so hard! Why were you crying?” This day, last May, was magical because you were finally old enough to recognize and tell me what happened.
“It was SOOO loud and it hurt my ears in my brain” was the best explanation your four-year-old self could do.
This wasn’t the first time you told me something hurt your ears, you had often mentioned that baby brother crying in the car hurt your ears. “I know, he hurts my ears too. He’ll be done soon,” was my typical response. A motorcycle zooming past hurt your ears. You never enjoyed practicing ABCs or any other nursery songs. When we played outside, you asked “What’s that noise?” for EVERYYY noise. Birds chirping, bugs buzzing, distant dogs barking, the air conditioner turning on, a car passing our house, nothing got passed you! It wasn’t until the day at your school program that I connected the dots. #momfail #sorrykid #illdobetter
Sorry, it took me so long, kid.
All of a sudden, everything made sense. I spent the night researching Auditory Processing. I texted your speech pathologist to get her professional opinion. Like other processing sensitivities, there are many ways that things get mixed up, a broad range of severity, and plenty of ways to re-train your brain. At this point, we had been in speech therapy for a year for a “speech delay” that I learned was a symptom of the auditory processing issue. The absolute meltdowns in noisy, chaotic environments – also a symptom. Too many noises for your brain to distinguish and recognize meant system overload and the toddler fight or flight response is not kind, y’all. After further discussion, your speech therapist and I agreed that some listening therapy in addition to speech therapy could help. And it did! I read everything I could find to learn how to help you in the situations that could bring on a meltdown.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas where you performed twice on stage with an audience. We had pep talks leading up to both performances. I was nervous for you both times. I sat towards the back, not knowing whether seeing me would make things better or worse for you. I had all the prayer warriors on our side. I had foam earplugs as a backup. Both times, you excelled. Proudly. Confidently.
Who was this big kid?! You sang all the words, you did all the hand motions, you smiled so big when it was time for pictures. You beamed.
Where there was once worry and panic, I saw you so proud of yourself, so happy to be with your friends having fun, excitement for all the big kid adventures that will be coming your way soon.
School functions may always give me just a little anxiety for you. Together we are learning there are plenty of ways to still be able to participate and learn how to manage when things are starting to overwhelm the systems.